Guest Post: Writing Process with Erin Zarro

Hey, squiders! Happy Tuesday! Let’s take a break from PPWC and hear how Erin Zarro wrote her latest book, Ever Touched. I love hearing about how other authors work, and I hope you do too!

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Writing Ever Touched was interesting because I didn’t use my usual method of pantsing as I did with Fey Touched and most of Grave Touched. Instead, I tried out the “writing from the middle” method by James Scott Bell. In it, you figure out your main “signposts” to write toward: Doorway of No Return, Opening Disturbance, Mirror Moment, Doorway of No Return #2 (Clue/Setback/Discovery), and Transformation.

Ever Touched coverThose seem kind of vague, but really, they are great. You see, I absolutely need some mystery in order to write a book. I’ve been pantsing for years, but that usually led to rewrites after rewrites because I was discovering things as I was going and had to make it all fit together at the end somehow. Grueling work. I’ve also went to the other side of the spectrum, and plotted stuff. And that worked… until I started adding in things because the muse told me to. Sure, overall it made the story richer, but that particular story also ended up in 12 separate pieces. I’m about to embark on a rewrite, and it’s already giving me fits.

So this method works better – and produces a cleaner draft – because I have some of it figured out, and I’ve left the rest as a mystery. And I really enjoyed the process, which is super important when you’re writing 120,000 words on a deadline.

I also added one additional point of view to the usual 3-POV structure of this series. I felt it was important to have a certain character’s viewpoint because she was completely different, with completely different origins as the others. And I wanted her story, too (I may, at some point, write a novella with her as a main character. She intrigues me that much). So I got to see her grow and evolve throughout the book as well.

As for the day-to-day writing, sometimes I didn’t know exactly where to go from where I was. Especially with the climax. I knew there’d be an epic confrontation with the villain and a fight, but the how of it eluded me. It took me several tries to get that right. And I ended up only doing quick written sketches of a few pivotal scenes toward the end because I literally ran out of time. One part was added in final edits because of something my editor said that I agreed with. That was probably the hardest – I wouldn’t have another shot at it before release, so I had to use my judgment as to whether or not it worked. I think it did, and I hope it does for the readers, too.

And then there was the theme song, which refused to show itself until 107,000 words in – that was interesting. It is “The Sound of Silence” as covered by the band Disturbed. It was playing during a very emotional scene between my two main characters and everything kind of clicked. Now, every time I hear that song, I will always think of that scene and those characters.

And finally, Brianna and Cobra’s romance. I knew sometime around Grave Touched that I wanted to put these two enigmatic characters together. They both had very big secrets, and lots to lose. And as I started writing them…they made sense. Every scene built on this beautiful, epic love story I was creating. It worked perfectly. I never had a single doubt about these two. They fit. And they loved each other deeply, and truly, and it was breathtaking to watch unfold.

But it’s tragic, too, due to some things I can’t reveal. Don’t worry, it ends happily. But they have to work hard for it (hell, all my characters have to work for their Happily Ever Afters. I’m a cruel mistress).

I also enjoyed creating the Ascended (no spoilers!) and exploring some of the aspects of who and what they were. That came to me literally in a flash as I was closing up at work. I’m glad I paid attention. It took a bit of writing to figure them out, but once I did…they were awesome. And they came from my brain!

All in all, I am very happy with how Ever Touched came out. It challenged me at times, made me cry at others, and excited me. I really loved writing using the writing from the middle method. My next novel will definitely be written this way, too.

Sometimes you have to break out of the routine, and do something completely different. With Ever Touched, I did that and more.

So I hope you enjoy Ever Touched, Brianna and Cobra, and the Ascended. There are others, but that would be a spoiler. I really loved writing it and think it fits very well within the Fey Touched world.

Stay tuned. There may be more coming. ?

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 2

I always wonder if you can piecemeal PPWC. There’s always notes about what to do if you’re missing a meal (and if you’re at the conference for the whole weekend, why would you? It’s included in the price and the food is really good) which always makes me think maybe you could just come for, say, Saturday, but I don’t know if that’s an actual thing.

(I believe, if you’ve won the writing contest, you can come for just the banquet Saturday night, but I am also unsure about that.)

(I wonder about these things, but not enough to do any actual research.)

Let’s dive into the sessions from Saturday.

(I got up early and worked out before breakfast/conference, and later walked in on my sister talking to my mom on the phone. She was telling Mom about me working out like it was the strangest thing she’d ever seen.)

Eight Weeks to a Novel (Becky Clark)

Like Friday morning, Saturday morning ended up a bit themed, and in this case it was time/project management. This isn’t really an area where I am deficient, but it is a subject I like to talk about and see how other people do things. In this case, Becky spends a week making a massive outline/synopsis (which she sends out to betas to get feedback on plot and whatnot because it’s that complete) and then spends the next several weeks writing and editing. Some neat organizational ideas which I will probably try out.

Agile Project Management for Writers (David R. Slayton)

Ironically, the example he used was also an eight-week novel, which I found hilarious but probably no one else did, because normal people probably didn’t go to two time/project management sessions in a row. This method made my engineering side very happy, but from a basic standpoint was also very similar to other writing management processes I’ve seen before. I enjoyed it. I do need to get in touch with the presenter and ask some questions (mostly about throwaway things on the slides which caught my interest, or something he said, and not about the actual subject matter of the presentation).

Constructing the Great Action Scene (M.H. Boroson)

M.H. Boroson wrote the bestselling historical fantasy novel The Girl with Ghost Eyes, which I have not had the opportunity to read but understand is awesome. This panel was also pretty awesome. We talked about the basics of action scenes (which are not just fights), broke them down into their components, and went through examples so we could see the basics put together. My other favorite panel aside from Stant’s on Friday.

And then we had lunch, which was a massive roast beef sandwich. With a pickle. Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid series) was the keynote speaker.

Query 1-on-1

Sometime between the last time I went to PPWC (2012) and now, they’ve switched from your straight pitch session (where you would memorize a verbal pitch and get to pitch an agent/editor) to the query 1-on-1 format. You bring your query letter, agent/editor reads it and gives you feedback, and may ask for more materials if they’re interested. I met with Mike Braff, who is an acquisitions editor at Del Rey (at the very odd time of 2:24 PM). He asked some questions about the main character and said I should focus more on her character arc and the twist of the story in the query. He also said it wasn’t really his thing, alas, though I kind of suspected that there wouldn’t be enough explosions based on some of his recently edited books (The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, Sleeping Giants by Slyvain Neuvel) and my sister went to an editor panel earlier and later told me he’s pretty much only looking at scifi right now. So, in retrospect, I probably should have signed up for someone else.

Serious about Series (Kevin Hearne, Gregg Taylor, Carol Berg, Tess Gerritsen, Jennie Marts)

I’ve found that the panel sessions can sometimes be less helpful than the one or two presenter ones, and I think it’s because they’re not really planned out in advance. I mean, I assume, but I don’t know, but from what I understand the moderator has normally come up with questions in advance and then the panel answers them. I mostly learned about various authors’ planning processes, which is interesting, but not necessarily helpful.

Building Better Beginnings (Todd Fahnestock/Chris Mandeville)

This was a good panel! Chris and Todd focused a little bit on what your story needs at the beginning and how long you have to hook a reader/agent/editor, but we spent most of the time going over the beginnings of published books and looking at what worked and what didn’t, and also did an example where we took a bad beginning and made it better.

Dinner Saturday night is the awards banquet, which is supposed to be dressy but I had a wardrobe malfunction (speaking of which, has anyone had a piece of clothing that started smelling after you washed it for the first time?) and so was under-dressed. Tess Gerritsen was the keynote speaker (and I learned that Rizzoli and Iles is a book series, woo) and shared rather a lot of disturbing things, which is why, I guess, that I don’t write thrillers. I mean, she was awesome, but D:

Dessert was not as good as Friday night, alas.

My sister and I hit BarCon now that we’d done our Read & Critiques and Query 1-on-1s and no longer had anything to stress out about, but it turns out that we are actually terrible at networking aside from people we already know. And then I had a crisis of purpose (which, from talking to people since PPWC ended, seems to be common at writers’ conferences) and had to go to bed.

Sunday sometime next week! Also, I will have a guest post for you, probably on Tuesday. It is about ten degrees warmer than it is supposed to be, Squiders, and I think I shall go take a walk.

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 1

Good morning, Squiders. I’m back from PPWC, and now that I’ve gotten some sleep, I am vaguely functional again.

I’ve gone to PPWC before, and I’ve done conference write-ups after the fact for all of them, so I thought I’d do something different than just retread the same ground again and talk specifically about the sessions I attended throughout the weekend so those of you who haven’t been to a writers’ conference before can get an idea about the sort of things offered.

The sessions offered this year seemed to be mostly craft or marketing. There were less genre-specific sessions than I’ve seen in the past.

(Disclaimer: What’s offered will vary conference by conference, year by year, presenters by presenters. So you may find that your local conference works slightly differently.)

PPWC has 15 sessions over three days (6 on Friday, 6 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday), plus an optional add-on Thursday session that involves more in-depth workshops (I never get to go to Thursday because alas, responsibilities. Also it is an extra $90). There are also occasionally some extra add-ons within in the conference itself, such as this year’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober program.

So, let’s dive into Friday, shall we?

Unforgettable Characters (Carol Berg)

Friday morning, for some reason, I picked all character craft sessions. Carol Berg is a bestselling fantasy author, and this panel was well-presented and did an excellent job of breaking down what different level of characters need to do and what you, as an author, need to know about said characters. She also tied characterization into plot and talked some about how to actually introduce and use characters from a technical standpoint.

Using Setting to Reveal Character (Laura DiSilverio)

I also considered going to a panel called Finding Your Inner Extrovert about learning to communicate face to face about your book but my sister convinced me this one would be more beneficial. I’m not sure that’s true. Laura DiSilverio is a mystery writer whom I’ve taken mystery-specific classes with at previous PPWCs. Laura broke down the topic into two different subtopics–using setting to reveal things about characters based on their choices for their own environment and to reveal things about characters based on what they notice in an environment. Good information, little bogged down in audience participation (since some people didn’t seem to be following the topic so well).

Bringing Characters to Life on the Page (Stant Litore)

I know Stant from MileHiCon, so, hey, it was nice to see a familiar face. This session was excellent. Stant used a series of exercises to help explain how to add emotion into your story without being obvious about it and did a fantastic job of tying emotion to characterization. He had a lot of examples to show how this works. I was so impressed I went and bought his book, Write Characters. This was probably my favorite session of the whole conference.

And then we had lunch! I don’t remember what it was. Oh, salad.

Read and Critique with Carol Berg

So, after lunch, I had my first two pages read and critique, which they had in a room on the second floor. That was a bit harrowing because the elevators were slow and there were a lot of people going places at any point in time, and I hadn’t found the secret staircase yet. My sister and I were up til 2:30 the night before working on our first two pages (I cut out almost 1000 words from the very beginning of chapter one). So there were eight of us, Carol, and the moderator (who was timing how long each person had). In turn, everyone read their two pages out loud while Carol took notes, and then Carol would give us her feedback. She was very good about it–always started with what was good about the sample before going into the issues. (She told me later that the R&Cs make her nervous before it’s hard to think that fast.) I’m not sure, in the end, that it was that useful unless, of course, you’re on your final, polished pages and want to make sure they’re hook-y enough. The guy next to me had an awesome opening that I totally dug, though (and I told him so later, but that’s another time), and Carol was very nice.

(Oh, and she was actually very complimentary about my pages, and complimented my description, which if you guys have been around here for awhile, you know is a weak point of mine, so woot.)

Seducing the Reader: 4 Essential Elements of an Opening (Darynda Jones)

Darynda Jones was one of the keynote speakers, and she actually has 5 essential elements but never got around to changing the title of the class. Also, my Friday panels are very telling about what I’m feeling weak in craftwise lately. Darynda laid out the elements in a way that made sense, and she also provided examples, which I am always for. (I’m a kinetic learner.) She also recommended some writing books, most of which I have heard of before (and one of which I’ve read and own, but it’s probably been a decade since I read it, so maybe I should do so again).

Today’s Marketing for Yesterday’s Author (KL Cooper)

Marketing! I figured I should probably go to some marketing panels, but I think I only hit two all weekend. Ah, well, priorities and whatnot. I think my sister hit more and she doesn’t even have any books out, har har. I probably should have gone to the Putting Clever Twists on Common Tropes panel. A lot of basic marketing info, most of which I already knew, though she did offer specific services to use for some things, so that’s helpful, and she did mention a few things that I’d not heard before and will need to look into.

Friday night was dinner (excellent chicken for me, and chocolate pie for dessert) as well as the costumes, which we wore to dinner and then had a contest for afterwards. My Rainbow Brite costume was well received, though apparently people who were fans of Rainbow Brite still didn’t recognize my sister as the evil princess (her costume was really awesome in the end). Alas. We sat with Carol Berg, who, as I mentioned above, is a lovely person and I like her quite a bit. My table tried to nominate me for the contest but I threw one of my sister’s friends, dressed as Anne of Green Gables, under the bus instead and successfully lured most of the table with me. Oh, and the key note speaker for the meal (we’ll have one for every subsequent meal) was Darynda Jones.

After dinner, which went quite late–9:30 or something?–we went and worked on finalizing our query letters and then ran out to FedEx to print them around 10:30. PPWC has BarCon, which is essentially where everyone hangs out in the bar after dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and “networks,” but we were so tired by the time we got back to the hotel that we just hung out in our room and then crashed.

So, that’s Friday. I hope it’s of interest to you guys! Let me know what you think.

Off We Go

AH.

Hey! At least I’m further along than my sister, because I have a finished costume and a maybe decent query letter?

(She’s texting me pics because she’s working on her costume right now.)

(And it’s maybe decent because I had five people look at it and two said it was really good, two said it was good, and one said it was terrible. Which pretty much sums up my frustration with query letters in general.)

I’m meeting with a developmental editor once we get down to the conference hotel this evening, which should be interesting, but is also somewhat terrifying. Developmental editing is not one of the services I offer, because I don’t feel comfortable working directly with the core of people’s stories, but I’m hoping it will be helpful in terms of some of the issues I’ve been having with the current draft of Book One.

Anyway, said developmental editor has a copy of the infamous chapter one and we will be going over it, and then, depending on the amount of work needed and whether or not it’s doable, I may spend tonight/early tomorrow editing before my Read and Critique session tomorrow afternoon (Carol Berg! Ah!). If it’s a big job, though, I think I’ll just use the R&C as an opportunity to garner more knowledgeable feedback and then fix it next week sometime.

So I kind of feel like that madness is more or less out of my hands for now.

I may poke at the query and see if I can add in a little more detail without being too wordy (another thing I hate about queries), but I’m taking 3.5/5 as pretty decent no matter what. I researched the editor I’m meeting with yesterday so I could add in some personalization and he seems like a cool guy, lots of things in common, and he was the editor for Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy which I’ve talked about here previously and enjoyed. So I’m feeling okay query-wise. We’ll see how that goes. That happens at some time on Saturday, but apparently I don’t get to know when until I get my info packet tomorrow morning.

So, basically, here’s the plan:

  • Poke query but don’t worry if it’s not working
  • Finish packing (remember things like notebooks, schedule, business cards)
  • Print out copy of chapter one for editing purposes
  • Print out query copies
  • Dinner
  • Drive down
  • Developmental editor

And then it’s on to the madness of the weekend. I’ll see you guys on Tuesday to let you know how it went. If anyone’s going to PPWC, keep an eye out for me! I’ll be the tall blonde (and I will have tree pants on Saturday. Just FYI).

Conference Going for the Woefully Unprepared

We’re T-minus 2 days (and some change) until PPWC and I am not ready. It is unlikely I will ever be ready. Especially because I have reached that stage where I know I will never be ready and instead of, you know, working to be as ready as possible even if it’s not the ideal situation, I have spiraled down into a mess of unproductivity.

What, doesn’t everyone do that?

I did finish my costume today, which looks like I wanted it to look, so success! Except, of course, that one should argue that the costume that one will wear for a single evening is less important than, say, the query letter one needs to be pitching on Saturday, and one should probably be writing said query letter instead of sewing velcro onto a belt.

(Although, I can supervise the small, mobile ones and sew at the same time, whereas I cannot think and supervise at the same time, so it’s not like that time would have been useful no matter what. This morning, however, when I played Gardenscapes instead of working on said query letter…)

Anyway, here is this list of things that still need to be done (or at least worked on) by Thursday evening:

  • Query letter. This involves writing said query letter (which I am, in theory, going to do after I finish this post), getting feedback on said query, and editing it.
  • First chapter. I talked a few posts back about the first chapter thing and whether I was unsure I should edit it before the conference, or if it was a good opportunity to get feedback from someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m still unsure, but I do have people looking at it at the moment (the opportunity fell into my lap and I know a good thing when I see it) so if I get feedback in a timely manner AND it’s feedback I can easily incorporate, I will edit this monstrosity before the con. Have not decided if I will edit otherwise. With the way things are going, probably not. I’d like to, but I also need to go to the counter store.
  • New draft. I am currently sitting around 45K (out of an estimated 100K) and I am not getting anywhere fast. If I were on track, I’d roll into the con with 55K, which is still not a full draft, but is at least half of one?
  • General conference stuff. This is stuff like pick what to wear, pack my stuff, don’t forget business cards, etc. This is easy stuff. So of course I’m almost done because it helps me not do the things that really matter. Also in this category is picking panels to go to at the conference, and I have selected two for almost every time slot because I’m hoping my sister will go to one or the other, which is probably wishful thinking, but hey! Sometimes it works out. She will probably not go to the marketing panels for me, alas.

Now that the costume is done, I only have one non-conference related project to finish up (and am only waiting on the final go ahead), so I really have no excuse not to do the more important stuff. But will I? Hopefully.

If you didn’t vote in the nonfiction poll, I think wordpress probably closed it, but feel free to let me know your preferences in the comments. We’ll jump back into that once I’m done freaking out about the conference (which might be next week, but there might be residual freaking, so it may be the week after that).

And Now For Something Completely Different

We’re about a week away from PPWC (oh God, I just realized that and I am not ready! ::flails about::), so on top of the writing and the getting ready for pitching and whatnot, I’ve also been working on my costume.

I believe they either started the costume dinner tradition five years ago (which is the last time I went, if you remember) or maybe they only do it every five years (on the 5/10 anniversaries), but one night everyone is encouraged to dress up according to the theme. Not sure what it was last time. I was eight months pregnant so I went as Mother Earth, but my sister and friend went as Capital people from the Hunger Games.

This year is Heroes and Villains, so my sister called me up to ask me if we should do Murky and Lurky from Rainbow Brite (which was a cartoon show from my childhood that my sister and I both remember fondly). They’re both villains, and we ran into issues with who would be who, and eventually settled on me doing Rainbow Brite and her being the evil princess from the Star Stealer movie. (You look at that princess and you know exactly what era that movie is from.)

In the olden days, I would have made as accurate a costume as I could manage, but I don’t have time for that anymore (especially since I didn’t realize there was a costume dinner until my sister called), so what I’ve done is bought a white sleeveless dress and dyed it blue (more on that in a moment), and have ordered rainbow socks and arm warmers, which should get here today.

And then I will need to make a rainbow belt and get a purple ribbon for my hair, and probably hunt down a purple facepainting crayon. I’ve seen people typically wear red converses with Rainbow Brite costumes, but I don’t have red shoes (I can buy a pair for $20 at my local Payless) and am not sure I can be bothered.

Tuesday I went up to my mother’s to dye the dress (my kitchen is currently MIA) which proved to be a bit more work than expected. (Also, my fingers are still slightly blue on one hand.) I bought supplies from Dharma Trading, which is a lovely company that specializes in dyes and things to dye (I suspect their target consumers are artists that dye large amounts of things to sell) and specifically got what looked like their least complicated dye (pour in water, put in clothing, stir for a while), but the powder was a bit messy and a single grain made an awful lot of dye.

The color is perfect, though, I did notice a small hole in the back of the dress. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.

It’s been kind of fun to work on something creative that isn’t writing, even if it’s just making a mess of my mother’s kitchen and ordering stuff off of Amazon.

I wonder how my sister’s costume is coming along.

What have you been up to lately, Squiders? Any fun projects?

Changing Support Needs

I started writing seriously in 2006, Squiders. I mean, I’d had periods before that–I’d been writing on and off since I was 8, including a fairly prolific time in high school (where I admittedly started a lot of novels I never made it very far on, though I did enter some poetry contests). I started doing Nanowrimo in 2003 and won in both 2004 and 2005.

But in 2006, I made the conscious decision to focus on my writing and to actually do something with it. Part of this was because I had a lot of free time. I graduated from college in December of 2005 but my new job didn’t start until March of 2006, which left me three months to do nothing, which turned out to be terrible. At the time I had no responsibilities and had just moved to a new city/state where I knew absolutely no one.

So it was as much a decision to save my own sanity and work my way out of depression as to work on something I’d enjoyed for most of my life.

Having been successful with the Nano model, I searched out a yearlong community called NaNoWriYe (National Novel Writing Year), which was a good start. It gave me some place to check in, had monthly challenges (including a fun one where you had to smoosh two unrelated genres together), and had team challenges as well.

The issue with WriYe was that everyone tended to start the year out strong, but few people managed to make it the full year. So it tended to be a bit dead as time went on.

Next I found April Fool’s, which was a challenge every April where you could pick your own word count goal. AF was active, and had fun perks like word count bars and winners’ pips. It also had an extremely active dares forum. AF was a good community, with people who bothered to keep track of each other’s work and goals.

And then it got hacked and everything got lost.

From there I settled into my current online writing community, where I have been for ten years now. And I got a real life group out in California that met once or a couple times a week. And things were grand! I was productive, my friends were helpful, and I was getting all the support I needed as a writer.

And then we moved back to Colorado, so I lost my in-person group, though one friend and I kept up virtual write-ins for a few years past that. And eventually I found my current in-person group, the one that I run the storycraft meetings for.

And it’s just become obvious lately that–I need something else. My online group has changed a lot over ten years. We had to close membership due to a truly ridiculous amount of spammers, so we don’t get a lot of new blood, and slowly but surely most of the people who were once regulars have been eaten by life. So it’s not terribly active anymore. And those who are left, I love, and they are supportive, but many of them aren’t writing regularly, or aren’t writing with similar goals, so they aren’t always the most helpful.

And with my real life group, well, it’s the same sort of thing. It’s dying out, and a lot of the people at the same or a higher level than me don’t come anymore.

I’ve joined some other online groups that specialize in things like query critiques, but they’re not really communities–people just show up for help and don’t really make connections with one another.

So I find myself feeling a bit adrift. As I mentioned on Thursday, I’m feeling low confidence lately, and working with people with similar goals and levels, or people who are more experienced, could be really helpful, I feel.

But for the life of me, I have no idea where to find such a group. Or a mentor might also be really beneficial, but same thing. Where do you find a person/people who might be a good fit?

Any advice you might have on the matter would be greatly appreciated. If you have a group or a mentor, would you mind sharing how you went about finding them?

A Poll, a Conference, and an Update

Can you believe it’s April, squiders? And, yes, I realize that we are halfway through April, which almost makes it worse.

At the end of April, I am going to be attending Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (henceforth PPWC). This is my third time going, but it’s been five years since I last went. (My mother and sister went last year, and when they renewed for this year, they bought me a registration too. Really hard to say no to a free conference.) I probably talked about it here on the blog back in the day.

(I checked. I did.)

Part of me is really excited. I stopped going partially because it is expensive (almost $400 for the conference alone) and because I’ve spent the last several years working on indie projects (such as Shards, which came out in 2013, and City of Hope and Ruin, which came out last May, as well as ton of really fun anthologies). I am trying a few projects traditionally again this year, so the timing works out.

I’ve even secured choice assignments–an acquisitions editor at Del Rey for my pitch assignment, and Carol Berg (!!!) for my read and critique.

But I’m also not in a great place confidence-wise at the moment. While I am finally getting somewhere on my rewrite (approximately 35K in at the moment) it’s quite obvious to me that this isn’t the final draft. I’m still worried about pacing in the first part (now that I’m past the inciting incident, it seems to be fine) and the first chapter is just a mess all around.

And I feel like I’m being overly critical of my basic sentence structure, which makes flow hard, and what if there’s not enough description still, and…

Oy. You get the point.

At the end of March/April I considered switching projects before PPWC. My options were:

  1. Pitch my YA paranormal that I’m finalizing submission stuff for. The novel is polished, the stuff is mostly ready, I could in theory start querying agents any day now. But I would have had to switch my requests for agents, etc., and that late in the game I was not likely to end up with anyone who was the right genre.
  2. Switch to my space dinosaur space adventure story. It’s at about 54K, the draft thus far is very clean, and the approximately 30K left is easy to get done in a month. Plus, no switching on agents, etc. But I would have lost several days to project switching, and there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t have run into issues with the last part of the draft and still would have ended up at PPWC with an unusable manuscript.
  3. Stay with the rewrite.

Which is what I did, because basically I’m not going to be ready no matter what. And here we go, come hell or high water.

I have been thrown into a bit of a panic re: Carol Berg. My first thought was “Oh God that is a lot more major of an author than I expected to be participating in this” and my second was “Oh God my first chapter should be burnt in a fire.” Having thought about it rationally-ish for a few days now, this could be a really good opportunity to get some help on something that has been giving me a lot of trouble. But it could also be an opportunity for me to make a giant fool of myself. Time will tell, I suppose!

Anyway. I’m going to keep the rest of the consistency topics for the book, so it’s time to figure out what we should move onto there.

As such, here is our favorite poll, yet again:

Which Nonfiction Subject Should We Tackle Next?

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The weather’s been lovely here lately, squiders. I hope you have good plans for the weekend and that things are going well for you.

Cover Reveal: Ever Touched by Erin Zarro

Happy Monday, squiders! I know I don’t normally post on Mondays, but I wanted to share the cover for the third book in Erin Zarro’s science fantasy series, Ever Touched. (I have read an advanced copy and can confidently say it is an interesting addition to the series.)

Ever Touched cover

Tada! And here’s the blurb:
One secret remembered, another forgotten…which one will explode first?

Brianna has two problems: she cannot remember her past, and she astrally projects to another woman who has predictions tortured out of her. As a result, she is lonely and feels distanced from her co-workers — the only family she has ever known — the Fey Touched Hunters. She is their intelligence gatherer, and her episodes are interfering with her ability to do her job.

When Fey Touched Hunter Cobra, her friend, finds her alone and injured from an episode, she accepts his help. But she’s terrified of doctors and of being thought mentally ill, so she refuses to tell him what’s wrong or let him take her to get medical help. Still, Cobra continues to help and protect her. They find themselves falling in love.

But Cobra, too, has a secret that could rip their fragile bond apart. 

When Brianna discovers through her episodes that someone has plans to destroy the Fey Clans, the Fey Touched decide to put their hatred aside and help them. But it’s not just a matter of someone with a grudge: there are other, more powerful players — beings thought to be legend.

As they unravel the mystery, Brianna’s episodes become more frequent and more dangerous until she is faced with a choice. To find the mystery girl and help the Fey Clans, she must risk opening herself up to the Hunters and to Cobra, and put her own life on the line. But is she prepared for the answers she’ll find?

Ever Touched will be available in early May, though you can pick up the first two books, Fey Touched and Grave Touched now.

Hope you have a lovely week, Squiders!

6 Strategies for Consistency

I think this will be the last post for this particular subject matter, Squiders, and I’ll keep the troubleshooting section for the book. Thank you again for working with me on this nonfiction posts. They have been hugely beneficial for me, and I hope you’re getting something out of it as well.

Today we’re going to look at specific strategies to help you meet your consistency goals.

1. Schedule Time

We talked about this a little bit in the basics section, but having a regular time that is writing (or whatever) time can be hugely invaluable. Doing the same thing at the same time in the same way helps a habit build up that much faster, and you don’t have to worry about stuffing things into your otherwise busy schedule. As a reminder, make sure the time you’re allotting for yourself is sufficient to meet your goals, and that it’s realistic (i.e., don’t plan to spend 10-midnight working every night if your brain shuts down at 9:30).

2. Figure Out Your Motivation

Knowing why you’re doing something can also help provide you with extra motivation for getting something done. Are you trying out something new that you want to share with your critique group? Do you want to see if you can write something you’ve never done before? Are you looking for publication, readers, to please your mother/sister/partner/friends, to share something with your children, to learn something before you lose access to it? This goes back to the visualization technique we talked about last time, where knowing where you want to be can help you get back up after failures and push toward your end goals.

3. Deadlines

Having deadlines can be a great motivator to help you become consistent. (It’s not for everyone. If deadlines make you go shaky with anxiety, just ignore this point.) A project can seem insurmountable, especially at the beginning, but knowing when you need to have something done by can help you know how much you need to get done every day and help you plan out your schedule. Breaking things done into easy, repeatable steps make them that much easier to accomplish. Deadlines can be self-imposed (“I want this book ready for publication before I’m 40”) or imposed by the activity (the submission date for an anthology, having material ready before the writer’s conference you spent a gazillion dollars on, making sure your section for your critique group is ready on time so people can look it over) but oftentimes knowing something has to be done by a certain point or you’re going to miss your chance can give you a needed kick in the butt.

Those are pretty general, and how you implement them will be up to how you work specifically. Here are some specific things to try:

4. The ABC Method

“ABC” stands for “Apply Butt to Chair” and is an oft-cited method brought up during monthly challenges such as Nanowrimo. The basics of this method are simple–you sit down in a chair in front of your computer or your notebook or your typewriter, or whatever medium you’re currently using, and you stay there until you get to your goal for the day. The idea is, in theory, that you get what you need to done, come hell or high water, and that you–also in theory–become more proficient and faster over time.

The con of the ABC method is that it requires a lot of time. It can be more useful for students or other people who don’t have a set schedule or a lot of responsibility and have the ability to sit in front of their computer for three hours at a time. So people who don’t have a lot of time at their disposal may find this method untenable. Another problem is that sitting at your computer does not directly correspond with productivity. You may want to combine this approach with an app or program that blocks the Internet (or specific websites) or games you may have to make sure you’re not wasting your time.

5. Prepare Your Day

You occasionally hear about these people who have greatly upped their word counts (going from 2000 words a day to 10000, for example), and the secret to doing so seems to be planning what you’re doing/writing about before you sit down to do it. (This tip works in other aspects of life also–I often see the same advice applied to making your to-do list, for example, as doing it the night before frees up valuable first-thing-in-the-morning time for actual work as opposed to administrative rigamole.) Outlining can help some in this regards, but it doesn’t have to be as formal as that unless that works for you. You can also run through what needs to happen in the story in your head, picture scenes before you write them, put in some prep work (such as doing research before you start so you don’t waste your writing time), and knowing where you want to be at the end of the day.

The idea is that when you sit down to write, you already know what you’re doing and can dive right in without getting bogged down by miscellany.

6. Consistency Challenges

A consistency challenge is a challenge, usually set up between you and other writers, where everyone pledges to consistently write a certain amount of words for a certain duration of time. The most common ones seem to be where each writer sets their own word count, and then comes back to some place (such as a single blog post or a forum thread) and reports their word count for each day. Some challenges require you to reset your streak if you miss a day, while others count cumulative days in a time frame, even if they’re not consecutive.

The idea is that having accountability (the other writers) make you more likely to follow through, to avoid the guilt of missing a day or to compete to see if you can write more consistently than everyone else.

The nice thing about consistency challenges is that you can tailor them to meet your needs. I’ve seen ones where the writer also sets a days-of-writing goal (“I’m going to write 25 days out of 30”) to build in some leeway if someone knows they can’t write on weekends or will be on a trip for part of the challenge. There’s also word count build consistency challenges, which can be useful if one hasn’t written in a while or wants to up their output in general. In a word count build challenge, writers start at a minimum word count (say, 100 words) and add a consistent amount each day to increase their goals. For example, a writer could decide that they’ll start at 100 words a day and add 50 words each day. So day 1’s goal would be 100, day 2 would be 150, day 3 would be 200, all the way up to whatever the end is. (So, at the end of a 30-day challenge, they’d be up to 1500 words a day.)

Challenges can also be set up with other metrics, such as measuring time or pages edited or whatever is relevant for the project at hand. I’ve also seen challenges with countdowns, such as ones trying to get drafts done before a certain event (start of a challenge, deadline for a contest, etc.). These challenges are customizable so you should play around and see what works for you. Changing up the rules every now and then can also be good, especially if you’re starting to feel like you’re stagnating.

If you don’t have a writing community in which to run a consistency challenge, have no fear. You can do it solo as well. One of the best ways to make the slog alone is by using 750words.com. You do lose the ability to set a goal under 750 words, but this website is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to keep track of a one-author consistency challenge. Each day you log in to the site, write (or copy and paste) your words into the box, and it keeps track of stats, such as how long it took you to write your 750 words (if you actively wrote it on the website), your words per minute, how many breaks you took, etc. It even analyzes the themes and your mindset of your writing, which can be kind of cool, to see what that particular passage is evoking, according to the site’s algorithms, at least. You also get nifty badges for writing certain numbers of days in a row.

Any other strategies you’d like to add, squiders?

Books by Kit Campbell

City of Hope and Ruin cover
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Shards cover
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Hidden Worlds cover
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